Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2016, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part XIV: A Tale of Blood and Steel
Continued from the previous excerpt
The Nakayama family were in the very first wave of Nipponese settlers from Terra to reach Lesser Judea, the second-largest continent of New Israel, in 2035 CE. To symbolize their new life away from the theft and oppression of Terran governments, they created a new family mon: A dragonfly flanked by two stars, one with nine long points to symbolize Sol System, the other with seven for Epsilon Indi. It was a bold and simple design, with which they proudly decorated their homes, clothing, and property.
At last free from endless regulation, the family set to work in the field which had financed their escape: banking. Previously, quietly contacting a Jeffersonian embassy, they had arranged to transfer the fortune of generations between stars, and to buy passage for themselves. Casually traveling for weekends or holidays, they disappeared, one or a few at a time, from government surveillance, hiding in Jeffersonian safehouses until the next starship was ready for them. They'd had to leave most of their heirlooms, taking only what they could secretly move, or plausibly carry with them. Once in Republic space they had access to their converted funds, and began building new lives, starting with an enormous land purchase in Lesser Judea.
Subsequent generations of Nakayamas lived in luxury scarcely imagined by the overcrowded, overregulated standards of their original homeland. There was room, vast spaces, hundreds or thousands of kilometers – and if one planet became crowded, even by their new standards, there were always more worlds, and the time between them grew ever shorter. They could keep what they earned, live as they pleased. At first they stuck with banking, but descendants diversified – shipping, engineering, medicine, art, career military, even politics, such as that was in the Republic's tightly-chained government. During the brutal three-year occupation of New Israel by the Terran Empire, the latter-day nikkei of the Nakayama family joined with the Haganah resistance, actively waging guerilla warfare against the invaders and helping bottle them up in their last enclave, the planetary capitol Steeltown, where they were easy prey for Republic Marines when Liberation finally came. Several captured Imperial weapons were among the family's most treasured heirlooms.
The original Nakayama line, on the original land, remained in banking, each generation raising and training the next, but never forcing their offspring into their parents' mold; if a son or daughter wanted to pursue another kind of life, they were encouraged to do so, with the family's blessing. Some generations were more flexible than others, but with Republic medicine four or even five generations could be alive and healthy under the same roof, and the young could choose from among the old whose example they would follow, or simply chart their own course.
In the late 5th Century JR, the last generation of the original Nakayama line, Hideo and Yukiko, had two sons: Kazuo and Takeo. Their mother was kind and gentle, always forgiving; their father a strict perfectionist, miserly with praise. Unusual for long-lived Jeffersonians, older generations were not present to help raise these children; at the time the elder Nakayamas had, for whatever reasons, moved to different worlds to pursue their own lives – a grandfather was career ECS on the Frontier, a grandmother had joined Alexandria's Order of Librarians, a great-grandmother was a designer for Monticello Motors. Thus Kazuo and Takeo had only their immediate parents for guidance.
The sons' training started in the very cradle, their toys designed to quicken their minds, solving puzzles for rewards. By the equivalent of four Terran years they were speaking, reading and writing in both national English and ancestral Nihongo, with a smattering of Hebrew reflecting the influence of their planet's original colonists. Homeschooling was the dominant method for a child's early years throughout the Republic; the Nakayama family was wealthy enough to hire full-time Instructors, who had served the line for generations, as ancient samurai had served their daimyo.
Hideo carried on the samurai legacy, teaching not only a peaceable trade but the arts of war, both with modern weapons to fulfill one's duty as a Citizen, and with the unique martial arts of ancient Nippon: the sword, the bow, the spear, the empty hand. These lessons Hideo taught personally, as his father had taught him, and had been taught in turn by his, who was taught by Hideo's great-grandmother Mei of glorious memory, bearer of the Navy Cross for service with the Seventeenth Legion during the Liberation.
Kazuo was the older brother, by three Terran years. His training, both as a banker and in the other family traditions, began very early, and he did not take to it well. Though physically he was capable enough, he was bored easily and quickly turned to rebellion, faking inability to protest his father's demands. As Takeo grew, Hideo turned to his younger son in the hope that he would not disappoint him as Kazuo had. Takeo was not given preferential treatment; if anything his training was even harder than Kazuo's had been at the same age. But Takeo's personality was better suited to a life of duty and obligations, and he dedicated himself fully to all aspects of his training, quickly surpassing any accomplishment of Kazuo's.
Jealousy and resentment took root in Kazuo's heart.
Among the skills Hideo Nakayama taught one son and attempted to teach the other was the way of the sword.
The family had commissioned or otherwise acquired many swords since Escaping Terra; some had been centuries old before then, priceless historical artifacts of ancient Nippon, even a genuine Masamune. These were carefully preserved and secured in mighty vaults, displayed on anniversaries and solemn occasions, loaned to museums for public relations in the name of the family bank. Certainly they were not used for sparring. For instruction, the sons began on the traditional shinai and bokuto, bamboo and wooden training swords. As each boy approached adolescence he was introduced to simple steel swords without edges. The training lasted all their lives, and eventually they trained with, and began carrying, swords with live cutting edges.
Hideo also taught them other weapons of the samurai: the yari spear, the naginata polearm, the yumi longbow – and modern weapons, the New Texas Arms Mk LX plasma rifle and Casetti M437 pistol, standard issue for the Republic's militia. When, in their turns, they enlisted in the Patrol (Takeo) or Service (Kazuo) to earn their Citizenships, they did so with several advantages over their fellow recruits. In their five short Monticellan years of service, both were steadily promoted and offered career paths, though both declined and took regular discharges; both reached comparable rank, Kazuo a buck Sergeant (Financial Management), Takeo a Petty Officer Second Class (Information Systems). (The JRSP took much of its structure and many of its traditions from the United States Navy, as the ECS did from the United States Marine Corps, though there had been some adjustments in how rank and rating were expressed, and in their insignia. Though trained as a Rifleman, as were all Regular Marines and the ECS Reservists, despite his rank Kazuo had never led a squad or even a fireteam, once his other skills were discovered. Likewise, Takeo received, and maintained, basic training in shipboard systems and weaponry, but was assigned tasks befitting his talents.) They returned to New Israel, both pursuing careers in the family banking business – and their father's training resumed.
The sword remained the soul of the samurai, and it was kenjutsu which comprised most of the Nakayama sons' martial training, in uniform or out. Modern nikkei were as fond of personal weapons as any other Jeffersonian, and depending on their liquidity would own and use several swords, each for a different circumstance – lighter, everyday walking-about weapons, heavier utilitarian models, finely-finished and -decorated specimens for special occasions that a Texan, New or old, would have equated to a “barbeque gun”.
Hideo Nakayama, a highly-ranked kenjutsu master in his own right, also owned and used many swords, but his favorite daisho, the matched set of katana and wakizashi, had been in the family for more than three Republic centuries, since decades before the War. They had been crafted by the hands of the Heretic, Daisuke Mitsuhira himself, and none but the Nakayama line had ever wielded them. Someday, one of his sons would inherit the set. They had tasted enemy blood, during Occupation and Liberation and the brutal urban fighting in Old Nippon, and occasional duels in the centuries since, but they remained as strong and sharp – and beautiful – as the day they were finished... for these were not ordinary blades.
Traditional Nipponese swords have been studied for a thousand Terran years, their technical secrets long since revealed but the art of their creation still mysterious. It is simple to say they are created by folding steel and wrapping the result around a core of iron, but the brevity of such a statement is an insult to the generations and centuries behind one of the highest forms of craftsmanship ever known.
When Mitsuhira reached the Republic in 2131CE, less than three Terran years before the Europa Incident and the subsequent Isolation, he recreated his abandoned smithy. In Nagoya he had been driven out of his 700-year-old business by ever-more-restrictive weapon prohibitions, ever-higher taxes, ever-greater regulations on commerce. In Yamato, Lesser Judea, he went from a penniless refugee to a wealthy and backlogged artisan in less than two Terran years. He was unique among his trade, being skilled in all three major steps of sword making, usually each the domain of a separate specialist: the smelting of the special steels, the forging of the blade from those steels, and the sublime polishing and finishing of the blade. He produced perhaps a half-dozen swords in a short Republic year. His waiting list was many times greater.
For many years after his Escape to the Republic, he continued crafting superb swords in the traditional way, and would continue until his death at a very old age, finally collapsing with his work in his hands, passing his business on to his cherished daughter – hundreds of years later the Mitsuhira line continued to make the finest swords in known space. But decades before his death, Mitsuhira had broken with tradition by experimenting with new materials and methods, exploring the possibilities of advanced Republic technology.
Inspired by a chance conversation with an American refugee on the starship to New Israel, he tried different alloys, rare and exotic metals impossible to work with before the Escape – only with space-based industries and widespread space travel were some materials available in meaningful quantity. Most experiments failed, but as that other refugee had said, “There are no failed experiments, there is only new data.” Mitsuhira applied the scientific method to his work, funding his research and trials with his traditional products, which he never gave up.
His quest began before the birth of his daughter; his breakthrough came after she had reached adulthood and had served years as his apprentice. The exact nature of his discovery is still not completely known, a closely-guarded family secret on one hand, and unthinkable to destructively test the result on the other, but it is known to be a form of cermet, ceramic-metal alloy used even before the Escape as vehicle armor and spacecraft heat shields. After dozens, perhaps hundreds of destroyed blades, and several smelting accidents which would have scarred him for life without Republic medicine, Mitsuhira had invented a new kind of blade with all the advantages of the old, yet far more – incredibly strong yet just flexible enough to absorb blows, unbreakable in over two Terran centuries of use, capable of taking and holding an edge sharper than the finest surgical scalpels, immune to nearly every form of corrosion.
Mitsuhira proudly brought his creation to exhibitions and tournaments – and was branded Heretic. He was refused entry to contests, denied standing among the peers of his trade. Insulted by his colleagues' closed-mindedness, and supremely confident in his creation, he publicly challenged the leaders of his guild, using forms from ancient Nipponese dueling and the Republic's Code Duello Nuevo, to prove his sword inferior. No blood would be spilled, it was to be a contest of cutting ability and the sword's quality of construction and balance as a weapon for real use, performed by nine high-ranking kenjutsu masters of the time.
The verdict was unanimous: After shattering every requirement from the guild, even those which would have destroyed any conventional sword, the nine masters all placed orders. Mitsuhira's descendants now bear the title “Heretic” proudly.
The very first sword he created from his new material, the same that defeated his entire guild in glorious vindication, became his own personal weapon, then his daughter's, and her daughter's, down through the family line, through the Republic-Empire War, tasting enemy blood on three worlds including Terra, in the battles to liberate Old Nippon. Daisuke Mitsuhira's direct descendant and heir carries it today.
The very second sword he made from this new material – and third, making a wakizashi to match – he gave as a gift to the banker who had given him his business loan when he was still a penniless Terran refugee performing manual labor for eating money. That banker had been Nana Nakayama, then-matriarch of the Nakayama clan.
Continued in the next excerpt....